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Want to get vaccine jab in Ahmedabad? Fend for yourself; you are 'atmanirbhar'

A person getting vaccinated at Urban Health Centre, Vejalpur
By Rajiv Shah 
Amidst news of vaccine shortage, on one hand, and “rush” and “scramble” for it at several spots to get vaccinated in Ahmedabad, I was reminded of what happened with me while getting by second Covid-19 vaccine jab. I got my first vaccine at the local Urban Health Centre (UHC) in Vejalpur village, Ahmedabad, on March 5 after getting myself registered online on the website Government of India has especially created for those seeking to do it.
It was a smooth going for the first vaccine. It was Covishield, Oxford’s Astra Zeneca’s India version, being produced by the Serum Institute in Pune. Those who had registered online had no issues: After checking on the computer, they were asked to produce their ID and move to get vaccine. Others, who had not registered online, were asked to wait for manual registration.
No sooner I got the first vaccine, I was told, I would receive an SMS on when to come next for the second dose, which was to be after 28 days. A few days later, the guideline for getting the second vaccine changed: Instead of 28 days, it was from 42 days to 56 days. So, first I thought I should get an SMS for the second dose. However, on opening the vaccine registration portal, I found I could register – but that was on computer. As for the mobile app which is supposed to offer the same facility (Aarogya Setu), no such facility, however, was available.
Be that as it may, I and Shruti (who took her vaccine on March 8, the International Women’s Day), decided to register ourselves online and go and get the vaccine. On opening the site, and entering in the pincode for Vejalpur (380051), we were offered just two options – one was an Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) centre where it was “paid”, and the second was called Municipal School No 18 (free). There was no option for the UHC, where we had taken our first jab.
Someone told us that the School No 18 was nearby, which is just about five minutes walk from my house, and we should better register for that spot, which is what I did. The date was fixed: April 20. Thereafter, I tried googling to find out where this Municipal School No 18 was in Vejalpur. I couldn’t find it.
Thereafter, I decided to contact a local social worker, who in turn asked a local AMC corporator to find out where this school could be. He too couldn’t identify it, though said, it should be “one of the two in the Vejalpur village.” A day before I was to get the second dose, I decided to go on a reconnaissance mission, so to say, to find out where this school was.
Indeed, there was a school just opposite UHC, and a board there declared it was a vaccination centre. But it was closed. A chaiwala standing just outside the closed school told me, the vaccination centre had been closed, and we should instead go to UHC. I felt strange, and returned home.
The next day, I and Shruti riding on my scooter, first reached the school which we thought perhaps we had registered online. The school was open, so I entered in. A school teacher (or principal?) was sitting in a big room alone, talking through a video call. I asked him about the vaccination spot. He said, it wasn’t there in the school, and we should instead go to UHC.
Hence, we rode to UHC. We sat there for some time. A UHC staffer was standing outside, directing people who had been reached there for vaccination. I reached up to him and said, “We have registered online… What do we do?” He replied, “That makes no difference. Keep your photo copy of photo ID ready, give it the person who will give you a coupon, and get yourself vaccinated.”
So the online “facility” has no meaning? I wondered. We got coupons, they were number 29th and 30th, within half an hour we were called to get ourselves registered with copies of our photo ID cards. The person who was registering had no details of our online registration. We were told to get ourselves vaccinated, which we did – the whole process didn’t take another 10 minutes. So, after an hour or so, we returned home after buying a few vegetables.
Was it an “atmanirbhar” experience (to use Modi’s new spin word)? There was no intimation for the second jab, our online registration had no meaning, there was no SMS or any other intimation, we were just left to calculate for ourselves as to when should we take our second vaccine. And we just had to tell the person in the UHC that it was our second vaccine (he had no record of our first vaccine, either), and that’s all!
Interestingly, before the vaccination drive began in Ahmedabad, persons from AMC had come for a door-to-door survey, took our details, including photo ID number and mobile number. They were seeking details from persons aged 60 plus. We were told, we would be informed by SMS when should we get the vaccination and where.
Nothing happened. No SMS came. Our society was not an exception. They had done a similar exercise in other societies as well. What happened to the whole exercise, and why such sheer waste of human resources? Shouldn’t someone seek an answer?
As for getting SMS alert before the second jab, I tried inquiring from at least 20 others whether they had received it. Everyone said a clear No! An elderly husband and wife, who were Covid-19 infected but recovered told me, they would get their second dose later. They had already completed 56 days. I wondered if they had received an SMS invite, which is what we were told after the first dose. And they too told me, “No, we didn’t get any SMS”.

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